Main--Dieu harbour: boats in view of the burned-down woods
Main--Dieu, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia


"I once caught a lobster this big"
Circa 2004
Main--Dieu, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia


Harold and Jane Wadden on Scatarie Island
Circa 1950
Scatarie (Scaterie) Island


Hand-weaving mesh for a lobster trap
Circa 2008
Main--Dieu, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia


Scatarie returning to life
Scatarie (Scaterie) Island


Scatarie Mass
Circa 2006
Scatarie (Scaterie) Island


Scatarie mass & picnic
Circa 2006
Scatarie (Scaterie) Island


Given the high-tech nature of the trade, it's no wonder it's also a high-cost one to enter. Since they can no longer buy a license directly from the government, wannabe fishermen looking to get into the business must turn to a free market, where licenses are bought and sold amongst fishermen themselves. The fastest way to acquire a license is from one's father. But without such an inheritance to fall back on, enterprising young fishermen are at the whim of a supply/demand regime like any other. They'll ultimately pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the "enterprise": boat, gear, traps, ropes, buoys, and the license (itself worth ten of thousands). Considering you could lose it all in a storm - not unlike the many who lost their homes in the area fire of 1976 - it's a precarious investment to say the least.

Even still, you might hear a long-retired fishermen chuckle that the current stock of fishermen "have it too easy"; likewise, it would be difficult to find one of those working fishermen who didn't think the same about the up-and-coming generation. And while the youngest fishermen on the water may, for the time being, have to put up with the perception that they are the spoiled ones, what's almost certain is that they'll get their turn soon enough. When the grandchildren become grandparents, and they say, "I once caught a fish this big," how far apart will they hold their hands?

Doubtless, 21st-century high-tech and higher insecurity rule. It's all the more comforting, then, to know that although so much change, even upheaval, has occurred especially throughout the last half-century in fishing, the vocation itself remains largely unchanged. Fishermen can still occasionally be found in their workspaces, hand-weaving the meshing for their traps, just as their fathers before them, and theirs before them.

And just as important to remember is that while they're out to sea, their loved ones still worry, knowing full well how unforgiving the ocean can be. If a mean Nor'easter were to come upon the area suddenly, wives will be found at kitchen windows, looking to the water, not saying a word to the children for fear of scaring them, but likely unable to hide the concern from their faces, nor the white from their knuckles.

Area residents are even returning to Scatarie, in droves, albeit only for one day a year, when the community is joined by revellers from miles around to celebrate mass on the beach and enjoy a community picnic.